There is only one thing that all webmasters agree upon... They all want to be at the top of the search engine results for search terms that will drive traffic and consumers to their website.
The truth is that the search engines are like our childhood game of King Of The Hill. Only one person can be at the top of the hill and the top of the search results. Only ten websites can be on page one of the search results. When a new website moves into the top ten, another must be removed.
For any given search term at any given time, there are only ten web pages on page one of the search results, and there are millions of web pages that did not make page one, who may or may not catch a few stragglers from the search engines.
How Can A Website Break Into The Top Ten?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an industry that has sprung up around the concept of helping their clients improve their rankings in the search engine results.
When you talk to SEO professionals, they generally point to a two-pronged approach to search ranking optimization. A website owner needs to optimize their on-site real estate for the search engines, and they need to build inbound links to their website.
On-Site Search Optimization Challenges
The trick with on-site search optimization is that you must cater to multiple audiences on your website.
* You must provide simple navigation and an attractive interface to the human visitor;
* You must provide good sales copy to your human visitors, for the purpose of converting them from shoppers to buyers;
* You must provide text copy for the search engines to read; and
* You must optimize your content to help the search engines know what topics and keywords they should pay attention, so that they can give their users the right web page for the right search terms.
A web page that draws good search rankings is useless if the web page cannot convert the human visitor to a buyer. Many website owners get caught up in the process of optimizing a web page to get it to the top of the search results, and they forget that the human visitor knows where the Back Button is in his or her browser. Once your visitor has hit the Back Button, they will go to someone else's website and buy from them, instead of you.
Most website owners have the alternate problem. They consistently convert a significant number of visitors to buyers, but they have to rely on various forms of paid advertising to get visitors to their websites, since they do not rank in the search engines.
I recently spoke with an individual who spends ,000 per month on pay-per-click advertising to get targeted traffic to his website. He said he consistently earns back his money, but he was still looking for a better way to get ranked in the search engines, so he joined my client list.
On-Site Search Engine Optimization Basics
According to the search engine companies, there are more than one thousand calculations that determine how well a website will rank in their search engine result pages (SERPs).
The Google engineers are fond of saying that if you build your website for human beings instead of search engines, then your website should rank well in their algorithms. To a certain degree, this is a good strategy.
Think about how magazines are constructed:
The Table Of Contents shows story titles, brief descriptions, and page numbers telling you where you can find a story.
On the story page, the title will be in big, bold font. Sometimes, the magazine will include a brief blurb about the story, in italics or font that is a bit bigger than the story font.
Pictures support the story with captions that further develop the story, by describing the picture.
Major subsections of the story have their own subheadings. And, the primary body of the story is in regular plain text, with only an occasional bolded or italicized word or phrase.
By analyzing the title and other large text on the page, a person who is flipping through the pages of a magazine can quickly assess the story content and make the decision as to whether they want to read the full story.
In the most simplistic way, this is how the search engines analyze a websites' content to decide which web page will best serve their users' needs.
Off-Site Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Basics
Since the inception of Google, and with Yahoo and MSN recently, the number and quality of links pointing to a website play a significant role in determining how well a web page will rank in the search results.
I have heard people suggest that as much as 75% of the value given to a web page in the search results is based solely on the number and quality of links pointing to a web page. I tend to believe a more conservative number (50.1%) will apply.
Inbound Links Are More Important Than Page Content
To prove this point, type "click here" without the quotes into Google, Yahoo and MSN and check the Adobe pages that come up in the search results: #1 in Google, #2 in Yahoo, and #1 in MSN. When you pull up those pages, search the page to find the individual words "click" or "here" in the text of those pages. They are not there. This has happened because millions of people have linked to these Adobe pages with the embedded anchor text, "click here".
Next, let's analyze those specific web pages from the perspective of each of the search engines:
* Google's #1 result - (Google PageRank 8). Links to this web page: according to Google (31); according to Yahoo (nearly 12 million); according to MSN (6,400).
* Yahoo's #2 result - (Google PageRank 10). Links to this web page: Google (15,200); Yahoo (700 thousand); MSN (32).
* MSN's #1 result - (Google PageRank 8). Links to this web page: Google (0); Yahoo (2.9 million); MSN (778).
On Google's top result, they show 31 inbound links total for that web page. But, Yahoo claims that there are more than 12 million links to this page. That is a huge difference.
On Yahoo's #2 result, MSN gives 32 links, Google gives 15,000 links, and Yahoo claims it has 700 thousand links! That is another huge difference between the link counts from the search engines.
On MSN's #1 result, MSN shows a strong link count, but still nowhere near Yahoo's 2.9 million links. But, how does a web page with zero links in Google get a PageRank 8?
What Do These Numbers Mean?
Google has always said that they will never show us all of the links that we have pointing to our websites, because anything we can see in the public search results, our competitors can see also. So, for me it really is no surprise that we cannot see all of the links that point to Adobe pages, or to the links we have created that point to our clients and ourselves, by querying the search engines.
Also, the sheer numbers of inbound links do not rule the roost. Google's #1 result (PR8) is actually shown in Google, before Yahoo's #2 (PR10) result.
The Proof For Link Building Is In The Search Engine Rankings
Recently, a fellow who works as a SEO "professional" told me that be believed my link building system was a sham.
I showed him that on the top 51 keyword phrases we use to market our original commercial website, we had 11 number one results, 31 top five results, 34 top ten results, 47 top thirty results, and 51 top 100 results within the Google search results. Additionally, it was shown that only three of those results competed with fewer than one million search results according to Google, with the remaining 48 pages competing with one million to 533 million pages.
Ole boy tore up Google trying to track how it was possible for me to have accomplished what I claimed. He finally concluded that since Google would not show HIM how I was able to rank so well in their search engine results, then I must have been lying.
According to Yahoo, we have over 12,000 links from third-party websites. According to our site statistics, we received traffic from more than 16,000 unique web pages during 2006. And Google still swears that we only have 42 inbound links to our website!
Magic Fairy Dust
My nemesis concluded that since HE could not prove through Google how I was successful in getting good search rankings, then I could not have accomplished such results by the methods I claimed.
Okay, I admit it.
I used the exact same method that Adobe used to get to the top of Google's search engine rankings. I have a pocket full of magic fairy dust. Whenever, I do not like how my websites rank in the search engines, I sprinkle my magic fairy dust on my modem.
If you don't like where you are ranked in the search engines, then I suggest you forego the search engine optimization companies altogether and instead run over to the corner store to get your own magic fairy dust. You might have to shop around a bit, but it is out there.
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